Sunday, March 1, 2009

Deep Cleansing

1. Part of our Lenten meditation is over the meaning of the sacrament of Baptism. The word “baptism” means “to plunge” and in Baptism, we have been plunged in the water and the Holy Spirit. In Baptism, we received the gift of new life from God, we have been chosen to be His beloved sons and daughters.Saint Peter compares Baptism to the flood which Noah and his family weathered in the ark. Just as the flood destroyed the evil in the world so that there could be a new beginning, Baptism washes away Original Sin, so that we might receive live as a new Creation. In truth, Baptism is much more powerful than the flood was. For after the flood, it was only a matter of a generation, and the world was filled with sin once more. But Baptism permanently changes those who enter into the new Covenant of the Blood of Jesus. At the flood, the world got wet, but in Baptism we were plunged in the Holy Spirit.
2. Saint Peter reminds us that Baptism is not just about getting wet. If that were all it was, we would be no better off than the world after the Flood- having the promise of God, but with no essential change. Saint Peter tells us that Baptism is not the removal of dirt from the body, but an appeal to God for a clear conscience. In other words, Baptism does not simply wash us on the outside, its cleansing power goes to our core. In Baptism, sin is truly washed away and we become new. It is true that we continue to have our inclination to sin. And after Baptism it is indeed possible that we might sin and even sin very seriously. At the same time, Baptism is our First Reconciliation with God, when the power of God Himself destroys the power of sin operative in us. That is, God makes us righteous, He changes us. We still have our human freedom which we can misuse, but we are not depraved, we are not worthless, we are not contemptible because in Baptism we have been made anew.
3. Still, our human freedom remains. Many of us would have to admit that we have not lived according to the life of holiness required by Baptism. Therefore, we must hear once again the words that Jesus announced as He began His preaching. The kingdom of God is at hand! Repent and believe in the Gospel! Each day we enter the battle with temptation and sin. We fall prey to the darkness of doubt. And so each day we must come to repentance. No matter how far along we are on our spiritual journey, we have need of a deeper conversion. We must acknowledge our personal sins, and God’s goodness. We must depend upon our Lord for the grace to be holy. And the Lord can make us holy.

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